Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Pear and Pecan Salad with Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing







This was my way of using up the blue cheese buttermilk dressing I had made a few days ago. When thinking about what kind of salad I wanted to use it with the stalk of celery in the fridge and the last pear in the fruit bowl inspired this not-quite-Waldorf salad.

Waldorf salad is made with chopped apples, celery, grapes and walnuts, all dressed in a creamy mayonnaise dressing. For some reason, I have always added crumbled blue cheese to the salad, but that is not a classic Waldorf salad. It does, however, complement all of the ingredients in the salad, so I will continue doing it.

I did not have walnuts, as they are my least favourite nut, so I used pecans instead. I bought some red grapes which added colour, but green can also be used. I tossed the last couple of handfuls of mixed baby greens in the dressing and used them as a base for the salad when serving it.

The leftover dressing I was using was buttermilk, crumbled blue cheese, a spoonful of mayonnaise, salt and pepper and chopped fresh chives. Extra crumbled blue cheese added to the salad rounded out this fresh, tasty salad.





Combine:

1 pear, cored and chopped
1 stalk of celery, cut into 1/4" dice
1- 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved







Add enough blue cheese dressing to coat the fruit and celery.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.







Add:

1/2 cup toasted, roughly chopped pecans
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

Mix gently to combine.







To serve, toss a couple of handfuls of mixed baby greens with some of the buttermilk blue cheese dressing and portion onto the plates. Gently mound the pear and pecan salad in the centre.


  • This salad is best served soon after it is made, as the pears tend to lose their colour and crispness, even if tossed with a bit of lemon juice beforehand. The nuts also lose the crunchiness that they bring to the salad.
  • I peeled my pear, but you can leave the skin on for colour. Red skinned pears would be beautiful if left unpeeled. Any type of pear can be used as long as it is ripe, but still firm.
  • As mentioned, Waldorf salad, which inspired this, uses apples, so switch out the pears if you want.
  • Red or green grapes can be used. I cut mine in half, but they can be left whole. Raisins can also be used...they are technically grapes! They will bring a chewy element as well as some extra sweetness to the salad. Try golden raisins, dark raisins, sultanas.
  • If you have walnuts, use those, however any nut can be used. Hazelnuts would go well with the flavours in the salad.
  • Purchased blue cheese dressing can be used.
  • I diced the celery small, as I find I prefer it that way, but you can cut larger dice, or slice the stalk for a different shape in your salad.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Double Chocolate Banana Cake



I have been trying to buy less bananas at a time, as they ripen way too fast in the heat. Somehow I still had 4 ripe bananas in the freezer...but we did not want banana bread again!

There was some buttermilk in the fridge, leftover from something else, and I did not want it to spoil, so I used that, along with the bananas for the liquid portion of this cake. I was afraid the batter was too runny, but the cake turned out perfectly, and was very moist.

I added cocoa to the batter, as well as chocolate chips, and did the same with a crumble topping. Why not? The last of the dark cocoa is now finished, but it added a rich, dark chocolate taste to this cake.

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9" X 13" cake pan with parchment paper. Set aside while you make the cake batter.





In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream until light and fluffy:

6 ounces soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar





While the butter and sugar are creaming, sift together the dry ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Set aside until needed.





Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl down in between each addition:

3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla







Add in the mashed ripe bananas:

1 1/3 cups (I pureed mine with a hand blender)

Mix to combine. Scrape the bowl down.








Add one third of the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until just combined.









Add half of the buttermilk, and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape the bowl down.

You will need a total of:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk






Add the remaining dry ingredients, a third at a time, alternating with the remaining buttermilk.




Add:

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix until just combined. this can also be done by hand.





To make the topping combine the ingredients until you have a clumpy mixture:

2 1/2 ounces butter, melted and cooled
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips





Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly.











Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake batter.








Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 45 - 50 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.



  • As I mentioned, I was using dark cocoa, which added a really rich, dark chocolate taste to the cake. Any cocoa can be used; it can also be omitted, using flour instead and making a white banana cake.
  • Mini chocolate chips can be exchanged for regular chocolate chips of any variety - try the salted caramel ones for something different. Shaved chocolate can also be used.
  • I pureed the bananas with a hand blender, which gave me a very smooth puree. The bananas can be mashed with a fork, or grated, which will give a chunky texture, and add small pieces of banana to the cake batter.
  • Sour cream or plain yoghurt can be substituted for the buttermilk; they can be thinned out with a bit of milk to achieve the same consistency or left thick. Milk can be soured with the addition of lemon juice, and used instead of buttermilk as well.
  • The topping can be omitted and the cake can be eaten plain, or it can be iced with a cream cheese icing, or glazed with ganache.
  • Nuts can be added to, or used instead of the chocolate chips, in the topping.
  • This can be baked as 2 loaves, or turned into muffins. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • The cake freezes well.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Chick Pea and Feta Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt







Greek yoghurt, a half zested lemon, some chopped parsley, half a bunch of green onions and the newly purchased jar of tahini were the inspiration for this meal. I have to admit I was hesitant about making it, as my husband does not like tahini, and is hit and miss when it comes to chick peas that aren't turned into hummus!

I worried for nothing...he loved it and went back for seconds! I was making chicken shwarma and really wanted to serve it with these falafel inspired chick pea cakes, so I did. I also used the Greek yoghurt together with lemon juice and some of the tahini to make a sauce, which was a cool contrast to the spicy chicken, and a good fit with the cakes.

I rounded it out with grape tomatoes, more feta cheese and fresh basil, adding freshness, sweetness and juiciness. All in all, a success, and a perfect dinner for eating out on the deck.




To make the chick pea cakes, place the following into the bowl of a food processor:

1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
Zest of half a lemon
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon harissa infused olive oil







Process until the chick peas are small pieces, not a puree. you want to keep some of the texture.







Add:

4 green onions, roughly chopped

Process to combine. Remove from the food processor and place into a bowl.





Mix in:

1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Now taste and add salt and pepper if needed. My feta cheese was quite salty so I only need a small amount of salt.





Using wet hands, roll into 12 balls, and press them flat into cakes. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.








While the chick pea cakes are chilling, make the tahini yoghurt, grill the chicken and chop the grape tomatoes and basil.




Mix together:

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
2 - 3 teaspoons tahini
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Refrigerate if not using immediately.



To cook the chick pea cakes, preheat the oven to 400F.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a non stick pan until very hot. Add the cakes and cook to brown and crisp both sides, removing to a sheet pan when done.

Place into the oven to finish cooking, about 10  minutes.




I served the chick pea cakes as a base for everything else on the plate, with chopped up chicken shwarma on top. I added the grape tomatoes, feta and basil as a topping and a dollop of the tahini yoghurt. The remaining yoghurt was passed at the table.




  • These feta and chick pea cakes were inspired by falafel, which is a Middle Eastern chick pea cake, with spices such as ground cumin, coriander, parsley and chopped onions. I added in feta cheese, lemon zest to brighten the flavour and harissa infused olive oil for heat.
  • The cakes can be made a day ahead. The mixture is soft, but if you work carefully with them, they are nice and moist and fluffy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
  • You can skip the step of browning the cakes in the pan and put them straight into the oven on a lightly oiled pan.
  • Experiment with other types of beans...black beans, fava beans, edamame beans.
  • Greek yoghurt is thicker than regular yoghurt, but if you don't have any simply place regular yoghurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place it into the fridge over night, allowing the extra liquid to drain out, and leaving you with a thicker yoghurt. This also works well when making tzatziki.
  • Tahini is a sesame seed paste, similar to nut butters. It is creamy, and mild, but with it's own distinct flavour. I added 2 teaspoons to start and ended up adding another. Add as much as you want. If you do not have any, mix toasted sesame seeds to the yoghurt, or omit completely.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Pork Satay with Noodle salad and Peanut Sauce







Boneless, centre cut pork chops on a very hot day did not translate to something I really wanted to cook or eat. Cutting the chops into thin slices, using the last quarter cup of leftover dressing from the post Mango and Tamarind Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw as a marinade, and turning them into satay skewers was a much better option!

I made a simple noodle salad, using the remaining half bag of steam fried noodles, some vegetables and a simple dressing of kecap manis, lime juice, rice wine vinegar and oil. Last but not least, what is satay without peanut sauce?

The only things that were really used up were the dressing and noodles, but I did make good use of the bottle of kecap manis I had bought. Oh, and we have leftovers for lunch!




Cut the pork chops into slices as long and thin as you can.

I used:

3 centre cut boneless pork chops, just under 1lb.






Place the pork into a resealable plastic bag along with the marinade:

1/4 cup Asian dressing from the post

 
Refrigerate for 4 - 6 hours. 



 
To make the salad combine the following in a large bowl:

4 ounces (raw weight) cooked, drained and cooled steam fried noodles
1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, grated
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced




 
To make the dressing, whisk together:

2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons kecap manis
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil





Add the dressing to the salad and mix to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.


 
To make the peanut sauce, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan:

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons kecap manis
 
 
 
Cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, until the peanut butter has melted and everything emulsifies. Remove from the heat if not using immediately, and reheat when needed, as the sauce will become thick very quickly.
 
 
 
 
 
 
While the barbecue heats, thread the pork onto skewers as shown. I put 4 thin pieces of pork on each skewer. 






 
 
Cook the pork skewers on a hot, oiled grill, turning often, until fully cooked.

This does not take long, as the meat is cut very thinly, so keep a close eye on it.








Serve the grilled skewers of pork on top of a portion of noodle salad, and drizzle with a bit of peanut sauce. Pass the remaining peanut sauce at the table; there is always someone who wants more!



  • Try this using chicken breast or thinly sliced beef. If you have a hard time cutting very thin slices, cut the meat while it is still partially frozen. This makes it a lot easier to control the meat when cutting.
  • I had previously made the Asian dressing from the post Mango and Tamarind Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw and had a bit leftover. You can use a purchased Asian dressing...something with garlic, ginger, sesame and maybe peanut butter.
  • For the peanut sauce, I like to use crunchy peanut butter for the texture. Smooth is another option if that is all you have available.
  • You can use chicken stock, for all of the liquid in the  sauce, or use it in combination with water or coconut milk. Coconut milk adds richness and a unique flavour to the sauce.
  • Kecap manis is an Indonesian soy sauce, and is thicker and sweeter than other soy sauces. It has a palm sugar molasses added to it. If you don't have any, use regular soy, and adjust the sweetness to saltiness ration by taste, adding brown sugar or honey to achieve something you like.
  • The dressing from the Mango and Tamarind Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw can be used to dress the noodles salad if you make a fresh batch and have enough. As I was using some up I made a simple dressing for my noodles.
  • A salad like this is a great way to use extra cooked noodles or rice.
  • Any vegetables can be used...cucumber, blanched broccoli, grean peas, edamamae beans, bean sprouts are some suggestions.
  • The salad will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
  • Consider making extra meat slices and freezing them in the marinade to save time in the future.
  • Toasted sesame seeds or chopped toasted peanuts would be a nice addition to the salad.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli in a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce







This meal was not inspired by a food item to begin with, but by the fact that there were no plastic containers left to put food away in! So a fridge cleanout took place, and once I had placed everything that needed to be used onto the counter, my mind started to work and this is what I came up with.

Needless to say, almost everything I used in this meal was in a plastic container....this was a true Almost Wasted meal!

4 eggs....fresh pasta

1/2 onion, 1 1/2 roasted red peppers, a Parmesan rind, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and parsley stalks....sauce

Open ricotta cheese, lots of goat cheese, frozen cooked spinach, 3 leftover grilled Cambray onions, the last of a bunch of parsley (stalks were used in the sauce)....filling

2 Asiago and roasted red pepper sausages....why not add them to the meal???




To start the sauce, cook in a drizzle of olive oil:

1/2 medium onion, diced
Fresh parsley stalks
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

Cook over a medium heat until the onion starts to soften.





Add:

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

Cook, stirring for 1 minute.






Add:

1 1/2 roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 Parmesan rind







Stir in:

1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce

Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cover. Cook until the onions are soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and puree. taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside until needed.




While the sauce is simmering, make the filling for the ravioli. I also made the fresh pasta, but you can use purchased sheets of pasta to save time.



Combine:

3 grilled Cambray onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped, cooked spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup crumbled soft goat cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste





To assemble the raviolis, make sure the counter is dry before putting the fresh pasta sheets down. Have a baking sheet ready, lightly sprinkled with semolina or cornmeal, to place the assembled raviolis.



Lay a sheet of fresh pasta on the counter, and place grape sized balls of filling along, slightly off centred.

Space them just more than a finger with apart.

Lightly brush one long edge of the pasta sheet with water, as well as the pasta in between the filling.






Fold the pasta sheet over the filling, pressing gently but firmly in between each ball of filling to seal, and then pressing down the long edge to seal that.







To separate the raviolis, cut in between each one, along the middle of the sealed section of pasta.

I like to then use a fork dipped in flour to make sure the cut edges are well sealed. It also gives a decorative look to the ravioli.







Place the filled raviolis on the prepared baking sheet.

They are now ready to cook.








Cook the raviolis in lightly salted, boiling water until they float to the top and the pasta around the edges is al dente, approximately 5 minutes. Drain and toss with the hot sauce. I also grilled a couple of Asiago and roasted red pepper sausages, slicing them and adding them to the bowls.




  • I used my 4 eggs to make fresh pasta sheets for the ravioli, but you can purchase pasta sheets and use those. You can also make the filling and use it to stuff the jumbo pasta shells, or cannelloni shells.
  • The roasted red peppers that were in my fridge were there because I had a couple of peppers that were starting to lose their crunch, so we roasted them. We had only used half of one, so I used the rest to make this sauce. Purchased roasted red peppers can be used instead.
  • Adding the parsley stalks to the sauce is a good way to use them, as they are still full of flavour and goodness. I separated them from the leaves, and then finely chopped the leaves to use in the filling. This is a good thing to keep in mind when using any soft stemmed herbs such as parsley or basil.
  • A couple of nights ago we had chicken fajitas with grilled Cambray onions; I had 3 half onions left and added them to the filling. They are slightly sweeter than regular white onions, and the grilling added some smokiness. Use minced green onions, or diced and cook white or red onions, shallots or leeks, until soft. Let them cool before adding them to the cheese.
  • Goat cheese can be omitted...use only ricotta cheese.
  • If you are not going to cook the ravioli immediately, wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap and freeze them. This prevents the filling making the pasta soggy. Cook them from frozen; they will take a few minutes longer to cook.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Smoked Chicken Breast Stuffed with Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper







A piece of gouda, half a roasted red pepper and some buttermilk led to this recipe.

The buttermilk was used for one of my favourite marinades from the book "Mastering the Grill" by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim. Buttermilk tenderizes and keeps the chicken moist.

I used the roasted red pepper and Gouda with some fresh herbs to stuff the chicken. Then I gave it a sweet and spicy rub, and my husband smoked it.

This chicken had so much flavour, from the marinade, to the rub and not to forget the gooey, cheesy filling. Each mouthful was an adventure!

I decided to make some Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad to serve with the chicken...firstly because the creamy avocado, sweet corn and juicy tomatoes would be a good contrast to the spicy rub, but also because I had an abundance of ripe avocado and some sweet, juicy grape tomatoes in the fridge.





Marinade 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts for at least 2 hours, in:

6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of chili flakes



Make the rub by combining:

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper



To make the stuffing, combine the following:

1/3 cup grated gouda
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt





To stuff the chicken, remove it from the marinade, and allow any excess to drip off.







Cut a slit into the side of each chicken breast, as shown, creating a pocket for the stuffing.









Divide the stuffing between the 2 chicken breasts, tucking it into the pockets.

Close the pocket and use a couple of toothpicks to close it.








Place the stuffed chicken breasts onto a plate and sprinkle them with the rub on both sides.

Store the remaining rub in an airtight container for another time.







To cook the chicken, we smoked it, using a blend of Tabasco wood chips and maple wood chips. Follow the instructions on your smoker. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 170F, it is ready to serve.

If you do not have a smoker, the chicken can be grilled, or pan seared and then finished in a 350F oven. To smoke the chicken breasts on your barbecue, follow the instructions in the post Sticky Smoked Chicken Wings.

I served the chicken with steamed green beans, and Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad.




  • The chicken can be marinated in your favourite marinade, or simply brushed with some mustard, maple syrup or olive oil to help the rub stick to the meat.
  • The rub can be omitted. It adds sweetness and a bit of heat, but is not essential to the basic stuffed chicken.
  • When making the rub, you can use smoked paprika for half of the paprika called for if you have some. This makes more than you need, but keeps well in an airtight container, and is nice to have on hand.
  • Other cheeses such as pepper Jack, provolone, havarti, Swiss or bocconcini can be used if you do not have gouda. Play around with different tastes and textures, the options are endless.
  • No roasted red pepper...try sundried tomatoes, chopped cooked spinach, caramelized onion, roasted garlic.
  • As  I mentioned above, this chicken can be pan seared and finished in the oven,  grilled or smoked on the barbecue, as in the post  Sticky Smoked Chicken Wings.